Gujarat’s ambitious development goals are exacting a grievous price on humankind. Questionable construction quality and oversight of various infrastructure projects are endangering the lives of citizens, as could be gauged by a recent episode.
Two people were killed when a portion of an under-construction railroad overbridge in the north Gujarati district of Banaskantha, the town of Palanpur, collapsed, becoming the latest in a troubling string of events that have rocked Gujarat in recent years.
Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel has formed a three-member committee to investigate the collapse. However, finance minister Kanubhai Desai attributed the disaster to “fabrication workmanship” rather than inferior materials.
So, as expected, the matter quickly became politicised as opposing sides started the blame game.
The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) blacklisted the company building the flyover in 2017, according to the opposition Congress, because the roads it constructed were washed out during the first monsoon, claimed reports.
“The contract was awarded to GPC Infrastructure in 2021 with the knowledge of its dubious operations that exist on government records,” Congress Legislative Party leader Amit Chavda was quoted as saying by a media house.
In addition, he alleged that the BJP rewarded the company for donating crores to the party before the 2019 elections.
The BJP government dismissed the accusations, claiming that neither the party nor the urban local body of Palanpur had anything to do with GPC Infrastructure carrying out the project. According to an urban planner who has collaborated closely with government agencies for twenty years, the company that was given the contract by the government subcontracted with the blacklisted firm.
Based on information gathered by the Congress, the collapse in Palanpur is at least the tenth such incident to be reported in Gujarat in as short a period as two years. Even worse, it happened just two weeks before the first anniversary of the 135-person Morbi foot overbridge collapse tragedy. These incidents all set off political storms.
The report added that after much controversy, the AMC in September opened bids to demolish the Hatkeshwar overbridge at a busy Ahmedabad traffic intersection, which an IIT Roorkee inquiry committee had deemed unfit for use. The flyover experienced four deck settlements and a box settlement in the four years following its public opening in 2017, which finally resulted in its closure in June 2022.
Only a few months ago, the sceptre of the breakdown of an under-construction bridge in Bihar’s Bhagalpur hung over Gujarat. SP Singla Construction, responsible for the bridge, is overseeing two major bridge projects in Gujarat. The Gujarat Metro Rail Corporation, the report adds, has also commissioned the firm to construct viaducts and stations in Surat.